Update your employee handbook for the new year

In the rush to start the new year right, there are many things that businesses large and small need to take care of. It’s a time to review strategies, evaluate performance, and make new projections. One task that is also critical is to update the employee handbook to account for changes in law and benefits, among other changes.

This task is often neglected by smaller employers, but it can be a critical one. A well designed and frequently updated handbook is the primary tool for promoting good employee relations by setting expectations and standards for all employees to follow.

Key characteristics

There are several important aspects for every employee handbook which every business, large or small, needs to have in place. These are:

  • Careful review to be sure that there are no unintended consequences of policies
  • No impression that the handbook is the essence of a contract with employees, but is instead a set of standard policies and procedures
  • Not a list of every rule for the workplace, but a general guide
  • Updates every two to three years to be sure that it is current

Your employee handbook should include all of your standard policies and procedures, but not be used as a guide for all activities on the job. It is also a very good place to list all the state and federal laws governing employment, many of which are required to be disclosed to employees.

What’s new in 2018?

There are some important changes which are very common for employee handbooks in 2018 and worth more consideration, such as:

  • Disaster preparation, including lessons learned from the last hurricane season and floods.
  • Family leave and gender discrimination, based on changes due to pending lawsuits
  • Discrimination against LGBT employees
  • Reasonable accommodation updates under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Changes to rules regarding independent contractors, particularly under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

These are just some of the policies which will be commonly reviewed by companies for their 2018 employee handbook update. There may be many more based on your own specific situation.

Good employee relations is the goal

The main reason for conducting an update is always to maintain good relations with your employees. Routine training, particularly of managers, is a critical part of keeping employees working hard and happy.

If you are unsure about changes in law, or if it has been a long time since you updated your employee handbook, it may be time to consult a law firm experienced in employee law. It is essential that your company’s policies are current and relevant. If it has been a long time since you had a thorough review of your policies and procedures, a consultation is a good place to start.

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